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How to help pets overcome obesity and lose weight

Though most don’t realize it, obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in companion animals.

An estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are considered overweight or obese, and as we move into a time of year where we all lower our activity level, this is important to keep in mind for our furry friends.

While many of us think it’s cute to see a chubby pet, the reality is that obesity can severely affect their health, as well as the longevity and quality of their life. Obesity can cause arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiac disease for our furry friends

<who>Photo Credit: Fairfield Animal Hospital</who>

So how can an owner figure out if their furry family member is carrying too much weight? Owners can look to a veterinary Body Condition Score chart, and follow some simple steps.

First, you should be easily able to feel your animal’s ribs when you run your fingers across their chest. There should be a thin layer of fat over the ribs, but not so much that you can’t see or feel their ribs at all.

The next step is to look at your pet from above. You should be able to see an hourglass figure or an indentation in the midsection. If your dog or cat’s body is rounded outward when viewed from above, they may be packing on a few too many pounds.

The final step is to look at your pet from a side view.

Does your animal have a slight tuck or upward slope from the chest to the abdomen? Or, does the belly extend horizontally from the level of the chest, hang down below, or even drag near the ground (called the Primordial Pouch for cats)?

If so, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian about options for safe weight loss.

For a more detailed look at Body Condition Score charts, please see these links:

Some easy ways to combat obesity are by cutting back the amount of food you’re currently feeding, reducing the number of daily treats, feeding a reduced calorie diet, and increasing their physical activity.

<who>Photo Credit: Fairfield Animal Hospital</who>

For dogs, some great activities to promote weight loss include increased duration for daily walks, playing fetch, swimming, treadmills, and interactive toys that require your dog to be active in order to receive treats.

Depending on breed, dogs generally need 30 min to one hour of physical activity a day.

<who>Photo Credit: Fairfield Animal Hospital</who>

For cats, owners can help them lose weight by increasing active play time with toys such as feather wands, using cat trees to encourage climbing, laser pointers to chase, treat balls filled with food (not extra treats) to chase around, or hiding small amounts of food around the house each day instead of using a single bowl, so that their cat must hunt for each meal.

Depending on age, cats should get an average of five minutes of play time three times per day.

<who>Photo Credit: Fairfield Animal Hospital</who>

Another option is to buy an automatic feeder. Owners can set them to dispense pre-measured amounts of food at specific times. Feeding smaller more frequent meals will make kitty cat feel more satisfied throughout the day.

Tip for cat owners: If your cat consistently wakes you up in the middle of the night begging for food, feed a small meal right before bed. So instead of two meals a day, make it three or four small meals!

<who>Photo Credit: Fairfield Animal Hospital</who>

Losing weight isn't easy, and it isn't a fast process, especially for cats!

Putting pets on a crash diet can have serious health concerns. Instead, veterinarians recommend a long-term program, where weight is lost slowly over the course of six months or more.

It's our job to take care of our pets. Let's make sure they live happy and healthy lives!

Pets First with Central Valley Veterinary Hospital offers monthly tips and information for pet owners in the Okanagan so that we can all stay safe and have fun with our furry friends in this beautiful valley! Central Valley Veterinary Hospital offers high-quality, compassionate care for your feline and canine companions.

For more information, please visit our website and Facebook page.

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